Low income and minority communities suffer the ill effects of coal-fired power plants to a greater degree than other groups, according to an NAACP report released Nov. 15.
The report, “Coal Blooded: Putting Profits before People,” documents the health, economic and environmental impacts of coal pollution and ranks 378 coal-fired power plants in the nation based on their Environmental Justice Performance.
The score is based on both toxic emissions and demographic factors – including race, income, and population density. The six million Americans living near coal plants have an average income of $18,400, compared with $21,857 nationwide, and 39 percent are people of color.
“Coal pollution is literally killing low-income communities and communities of color,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “There is no disputing the urgency of this issue. Environmental justice is a civil and human rights issue when our children are getting sick, our grandparents are dying early, and mothers and fathers are missing work.”
In addition to the rankings, the report called upon individuals, organizations, and policymakers to make a just transition from coal to other energy sources. The recent closure of two coal-fired power plants in Chicago was used as a case study; the report also ranked coal power companies on their Environmental Justice Performance.
“Coal Blooded is a chance to show the world how dirty these plants are, and to highlight the impact they have on our communities,” stated Executive Director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization Kimberly Wasserman, who was instrumental in the shutdown of Fisk and Crawford Generating Stations in Chicago. “It is exciting to see people come together and speak up on this important issue.”
Pollutants emitted by coal plants have been linked to asthma attacks, lung inflammation, chronic bronchitis, irregular heart conditions, and birth defects. According to the Clean Air Task Force, coal pollution is estimated to cause 13,200 premature deaths and 9,700 hospitalizations per year across the United States.
Coal plants are also the number one contributor to carbon dioxide, the leading driver of climate change, which is already impacting communities around the country and around the world.
The full report can be found on the NAACP’s website at http://www.naacp.org/pages/coal-blooded1.